For whatever reason, many a customer has backed out of a restaurant reservation at the last minute.
But Australia’s restaurant industry is hitting back against no-show diners who cost business owners millions in lost income by putting these customers on a one-year black list.
Dimmi, the country's largest online restaurant booking network which is used by 4,000 eateries, lets its restaurant partners to blacklist diners who don’t honor their online bookings.
Since launching the policy in February last year, 38,000 diners have been black-listed-- up from just over 31,00 in 2015-2016. Dimmi says its restaurants have seen a 25 percent decrease in no-shows over the past 12 months.
Part of its success is due to the introduction of the Dimmi Payments system, which stores customer credit card details in order to deter no-shows and take prepayments where applicable.
Dimmi founder and CEO Stevan Premutico says the black-listing only applies to the restaurant where the original booking was made and lasts for a year. It can be “overridden” at the discretion of the restaurant.
“The restaurant will mark you as a no-show and you will be restricted from making another reservation at the restaurant again,” Premutico said.
“We’re not saying that life doesn’t happen. Sometimes the babysitter bails, you feel unwell or something comes up. That’s just life. What we are asking for people to do when that happens is to call and cancel, so the table can be rebooked.”
No-show bookings have a $57 million impact of the Australian restaurant industry, according to Premutico, and account for about 3 percent of all reservations.
Because the profit margins are so small in the industry — also around 3 per cent — a couple of no-show tables can mean the restaurant doesn’t make a profit that night.
“The majority of people don’t understand the significant impact this is having on the industry,” Premutico said.
“They think somebody else is going to make up that booking, but that’s typically not the case."
The owner of Sydney’s Nel, Nelly Robinson, says he has heard every excuse in the book from patrons who fail to show up for their booking, from “I’ve just been called into a last-minute meeting” to “I broke my knee cap on the way to our reservation”.
The best, though, he says was from someone who said “I’m at Wentworth Avenue in Parramatta” — Nel is based on Wentworth Avenue in Sydney’s CBD.
Premutico said the best excuses he’s heard are “It’s too hot” and “I’ve been called up for jury duty”.
“I had one the other day from a bloke who booked at a Chinese restaurant and said ‘I thought it was an Italian restaurant’,” he said.
Premutico advises that if you plan on canceling a booking, give 24 hours notice as a common courtesy. But even four hours notice can still beenough time for the restaurant to re-book the table.